Gov. Christie signs $32 billion state budget

((AP Photo/Curt Hudson))

June 29, 2012 4:42:52 PM PDT
Gov. Chris Christie took out his veto pen Friday, slashing $361 million from the state budget Democrats sent him and gutting other Democrat-favored programs before signing the $32 billion spending plan into law.

The Republican governor with a national profile waited until the 11th hour to act - a balanced budget needs to be in place by 12:01 a.m. Sunday, the start of the new fiscal year.

"I am unwilling to surrender the gains we have made to establish fiscal responsibility in the state budget," Christie said in a statement after signing the budget in private Friday. "The budget I signed reverses irresponsible funding decisions, establishes funding levels based on realistic and responsible revenue assumptions and increases our surplus."

Christie, who has been touting the beginning of an economic rebound, said Friday his budget revisions help ensure the "Jersey Comeback" continues.

Democrats, however, denounced the governor's cuts, including $7.5 million to family planning centers. He also vetoed a bill that would have returned $66 million in energy taxes to cities and towns, which say the money would help offset sky-high property taxes. New Jerseyans pay the highest property taxes in the country, averaging more than $7,700 per household a year.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, a sponsor of the bill to restore a 2011 Christie cut to women's clinics, said the governor's latest action was disappointing but not unexpected.

"If this were really about the money, and not cowing to national conservative Republicans, the governor would recognize that this investment actually saves the state money in the long run through preventative care," she said.

Christie delayed action on a separate bill to increase taxes on millionaires and use the $800 million in new revenue to restore property tax rebates.

He has vetoed similar bills twice before.

The main dispute during this year's partisan budget battle was over a tax cut.

Christie's budget included $183 million to fund the first installment of a phased-in 10 percent tax cut. The budget Democrats handed him, and Christie signed, also includes the funding, but does not contain accompanying legislation to enact the cut. Democrats want to reassess the state's financial picture in January before agreeing to the cut.

Democrats say the governor is relying on revenue projections that are overly optimistic, but Christie wants a commitment to fund the tax cut now.